Neurosteroid modulation of synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptors of the mouse nucleus accumbens

Scott J. Mitchell, Grant D. Phillips, Becks Tench, Yunkai Li, Delia Belelli, Stephen J. Martin, Jerome D. Swinny, Louise Kelly, John R. Atack, Michael Paradowski, Jeremy J. Lambert

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The recent approval of formulations of the endogenous neurosteroid allopregnanolone (brexanolone) and the synthetic neuroactive steroid SAGE-217 (zuranolone) to treat postpartum depression (PPD) has encouraged further research to elucidate why these potent enhancers of GABAAR function are clinically effective in this condition. Dopaminergic projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to the nucleus accumbens are associated with reward/motivation and brain imaging studies report that individuals with PPD show reduced activity of this pathway in response to reward and infant engagement. However, the influence of neurosteroids on GABA-ergic transmission in the nucleus accumbens has received limited attention. Here, we investigate, in the medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of the mouse nucleus accumbens core, the effect of allopregnanolone, SAGE-217 and other endogenous and synthetic steroids of interest on fast phasic and tonic inhibition mediated by synaptic (α1/2βγ2) and extrasynaptic (α4βδ) GABAARs, respectively. We present evidence suggesting the resident tonic current results from the spontaneous opening of δ-GABAARs, where the steroid-enhanced tonic current is GABA-dependent. Furthermore, we demonstrate local neurosteroid synthesis in the accumbal slice preparation and reveal that GABA-ergic neurotransmission of MSNs is influenced by an endogenous neurosteroid tone. Given the dramatic fluctuations in allopregnanolone levels during pregnancy and postpartum, this neurosteroid-mediated local fine-tuning of GABAergic transmission in the MSNs will probably be perturbed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number460
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2024


  • allopregnanolone
  • brexanolone
  • zuranolone GABAA receptor
  • tonic inhibition
  • phasic inhibition
  • nucleus accumbens
  • UKRI
  • MRC
  • 1313951

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